Death and all His Friends

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Epilogue: 7 years later.

The toll of the wedding bells echoed across the rolling green meadows, the sound rich and melodious, bringing cheer to the hearts of all who heard it.

I let my fingers run through the long grass as I walked by the paddock, smiling as the lambs and sheep bleated softly as I moved past.

“I knew she’d get married before I did.” I told my fiancé as I stared out from my vantage point at the top of the large hill.

I could see the church and wedding progression stretched out below me, teeming with guests and people congratulating Jess and her new groom.

Jess looked so happy. Her cheeks were rosy and red and she just couldn’t stop smiling as she clung onto the arm of her handsome husband.

She was definitely the most beautiful bride I had ever seen. In the last seven years, Jess had gone from a blossoming young girl into a beautiful, confident woman.

“I still think you’re the prettier sister.” Paul told me, kissing me on the cheek and making me laugh at the absurdity.

“Stop being such a charmer, Paul Connifer.” I teased, though I couldn’t stop the large smile from appearing on my face.

There were times when I still wondered how strange it was that I ended up being engaged to Paul of all people.

After high school, we both went to the same University and even though he was a year older than me, we became really good friends. One thing led to another and eventually our friendship led to something more.

I had started dating Paul about three years ago and on the last day of spring this year, he proposed to me. I still thought we were a bit young to get married so I wanted to stay engaged for a long time before actually planning a wedding. Jess, on the other hand, was only 22 but already tying the knot. She was truly and utterly in love though. Even now I could see it on her face and although I wasn’t in favour of her getting married so young, Jess was determined.

“We should head back soon. They’ll probably want to take some family pictures.” Paul said so me as I got lost in my own thoughts.

“That’s true.” I said.

He turned and led the way back towards the church but I stopped suddenly when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.

Paul glanced over his shoulder and frowned when he saw I wasn’t following him anymore.

“What’s wrong Tegan?” he asked quickly, looking concerned.

“Um…nothing. You go first and tell them I’ll be there shortly. I just want to enjoy this view for another minute.”

Paul looked at me suspiciously but decided not to ask. He was always knew when he shouldn’t ask questions. I suppose he was getting used to my frequent bouts of vague contemplative staring.

“Alright but you better be quick. You don’t want your sister to think you’re avoiding her on the happiest day of her life.” He warned sternly, a crease forming between his eyebrows.

“I know. I just feel sad to see my little sister grow up.” I replied with a small smile.

Paul walked back to me and kissed me on the cheek again, before making his way back down the dirt path towards the church.

When I was sure he was out of sight, I quickly turned and made my way towards the large red barn on the other side of the paddock.

Jess had decided to get married at a quaint old church in the countryside next to a really large farm that her husband’s family owned. At first I didn’t think it was such a good idea because animals tend to stink but my sister wouldn’t listen. I’m glad she didn’t because regardless of animal poop smell, the wedding had been amazing.

All thoughts of the wedding, however, flew from my mind when I reached the barn.

It was a formidable structure, about the size of a small house, with bright red paint and massive double doors.

There was a huge haystack to the right of the doors and I slowly walked around it until I saw the person standing behind it.

I knew what I thought I had seen but I didn’t believe it.

For a long time I had seen him everywhere but it had all been my imagination.

But now that I stood here, he seemed so real.

“Raith?” I whispered, unable to tear my eyes away from the black-clad figure leaning against the wall of the barn.

Raith smiled at me and that smile brought back a flood of emotions I had locked away for so long.

He hadn’t aged a day. His skin was as smooth and pale as ever, his nose straight and his eyes as dark and mysterious as they had been all those years ago.

I didn’t want to approach him.

I was scared it was all an illusion and that if I got too close, I would scare him away and he’d disappear like mist.

Then he straightened and walked towards me, as confident as ever.

“Hey Tegan.” He said smoothly, as if we met each other like this all the time. “Nice wedding.” He gestured to the church.

I decided to play it cool, or at least as cool as possible when you’re having a stroke.

“You know Jess. She’s got interesting taste. Besides, her husband looks a little like you.” I replied calmly as my heart did somersaults.

“Oh please, I’m far more attractive.” Raith crossed his arms and I couldn’t help but smile at his familiar, airy confidence.

I felt like I was being transported back in time, back to the days when it was just me and Raith sitting in my room eating dessert. The memory tugged at my heartstrings and made my chest feel tight.

Raith watched me intensely, his gaze taking in my long hair and short teal bridesmaid dress. I tried to memorise every feature on his face; the way his hair fell over his eyes, the way he always seemed to be smirking without realising it. I tried to hold on to it all but it was like I was trying to catch smoke in my hands.

“I’m bored. Let’s go walk around.” Raith suddenly said, breaking the silence swiftly.

I swallowed nervously and nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I felt like a giggling schoolgirl again, acting shy and nervous around her crush. It was ridiculous but I felt my face heat up at the thought of it anyway.

Raith walked past me and I followed after him, my steps matching the depressions in the grass from his feet.

We walked together in silence, Raith in front and me behind. The long grass swished against our toes and the summer sun beat down on our heads from high above.

“You’ve become better with age.” Raith commented with a sly look back in my direction. “You’re really hot now.”

I went red and rolled my eyes.

“And you haven’t changed one bit.” I replied shortly.

I slowed down to pick a dandelion from the ground before fastening my strides to catch up with Raith.

We walked side by side now, and I twirled my flower in my hands, enjoying the way the sun caught it at odd angles.

“I always knew you’d end up with him.” Raith suddenly said. He stopped walking and I did too, feeling self conscious as he stared at the ring on my finger.

I slowly raised my head and gazed into his eyes. The dark green that surrounded me was something that felt so familiar and comforting.

“Really? Paul?” I asked, slightly incredulous.

Raith nodded.

“You were a blind idiot not to see the way he looked at you.”

“Now you’re just messing with me.” I snapped, looking down bashfully and kicking the grass. To my horror, the tip of my shoe got stuck in the dirt and I spent the next half a minute trying to get it out.

“Do you love him?” Raith asked quickly.

That caught me off guard and I looked up, startled by the question.

“I…I think I do.” I whispered. “Do you love her?”

Raith didn’t answer and so we both stood in silence, staring at each other.

“I’m glad you’re happy.” He said at last, reaching out and tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.

I flinched at the contact before my mind registered what had happened.

“You can touch me here?” I asked, staring at his long, lingering finger.

“One of the perks of being a Death Lord.” He gave me a small smile and I couldn’t help it.

I took a step forward and hugged him, pulling him towards me and squeezing him as tightly as I could.

“I’ve missed you.” I said into his chest, letting that vanilla scent envelop me. He always smelt like some sort of dessert.

“You don’t need me anymore.” Raith whispered into my ear, stroking my hair.

“I do. I’ve always needed you.” I said softly, feeling that old rush of emotions that I thought I had buried.

“You faced your demons a long time ago. You can live without me.” He whispered.

We stood in each other’s arms; our heart beats synchornised and beating as one. It was a moment that I wished would last forever, but like all good things, it had to come to an end.

“It’s good to see you again.” Raith said softly in my ear.

I nodded against his chest and reluctantly let him go.

“Take care, Tegan Michaels.” He said fondly, his eyes bright and warm like summer.

“You too Tyler.”

He smiled at me, one last sweet smile before he disappeared.

It didn’t hurt as much this time. I actually managed to smile back. He always did like it when I smiled.

Then I let my knees sink to the ground and I sat in heap in the grass.

The air was so unbelievably still, so serene and quiet that it was like Raith and I had never existed.

There were often times when I’d think back to that strange part of my life. Sometimes I’d wonder if it really did happen or whether I had been dreaming the whole time. Even today I found it hard to believe that I had seen everything I’d seen, or done the things I’d done. But it was all too real to be a fantasy, and the things I had experienced would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Looking back, I realised that everyone involved had been a victim of loss. Cory had been driven to insanity by the death of his sister and Lucas used this to control him. Lucas himself was pushed onto a path of revenge by the loss of his closest friend Tomb. The death of Scara sent Raith into a fit of rage and I, well, I was tormented by guilt over Megan’s abduction. We had all dealt with our loss in different ways but for me, I could never have accepted what had happened if it hadn’t been for Raith.

I’m not sure if I loved Raith. I had always thought I was too young back then to know what love was. But whatever it was that I felt for him, Raith had changed me. In those dark times when I thought I was alone, Raith had been there for me. He had shared his darkest secrets and I had shared mine. We talked about things in our past that we would never speak of again. He had been the most important person in my life and I would always treasure those days I spent with him, eating cake in my room while we watched the day turn into night.

One day we might meet again, in that faraway place beyond this world.

But for now, because of him, I was going to be okay.

The End.

You be the anchor that keeps my feet on the ground. I’ll be the wings that keep your heart in the clouds.

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